In the fall of 1991, I was a senior in high school. One morning, my Government teacher walked in and asked how much the new V12 -powered Mercedes 600SEL cost (he apparently read it somewhere). Without skipping a beat I said, “$126,000”. He grinned and nodded. When he opened the door of the car, you could tell he looked after it. All I could smell was strawberry. I asked what that was and he told me he couldn’t remember the exact name, but he said it was something similar to Scentsy Car Bars. I mean, if you’re going to own a car like this, the least you can do it keep it smelling fresh, which he always did. Anyway, that was the price of the world’s best car.
While the 600SEL packed a 402 horsepower 6.0-liter V12, the 2014 S63 AMG slams forth with a hand-built 5.5-liter biturbo V8, delivering 577 horsepower and 664 lb.-ft. of torque. That much power tends to shrink a car…and journeys. It connects to a paddle-shifted 7-speed automatic transmission and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. Flash from 0-60 mph in just 3.9s, and surge pass 100 mph, as the hood-mounted star reaches for the horizon. Gas mileage is disgusting, but nobody cares.
A console button optimizes the powertrain’s performance. “C” (Controlled Efficiency) is the preferred cruising mode, using ECO Start/Stop technology, less aggressive throttle response, and smoother shifting to conserve fuel. “S” (Sport) and “M” (Manual) modes hold shifts longer with a more sensitive throttle. The modes also alter the throaty roar of the engine by closing exhaust flaps for quiet cruising in C and blowing them open in S/M. It gives the engine’s considerable grunt a melodic snort.
A sophisticated chassis backs the engine. 4MATIC and Mercedes’ AIRMATIC suspension systems conspire for dynamics that would bedevil smaller cars. “Comfort” and “Sport” modes for the active suspension system deliver a traditional Mercedes ride on-road or a firm AMG feel for attacking backroads. 4MATIC brakes the inside rear wheel to tighten the car’s line; carbon ceramic brakes “deploy the parachute”.
That’s just the machinery. An S-Class is also about recognized style.
Whoever at Mercedes thinks screwing with the fronts of the company’s sedans, moving the star from hood to grille, has never gazed hood-long at one from behind the steering wheel. Fortunately, the idiots who messed up the C- and E-Class sport models stayed far from the S-Class. Flash that big chrome grille at exclusive hotels, or fill the mirrors of left-lane slow-pokes with it, and you quickly get respect. People tend to move in your favor!
If they pause, they’ll realize all of the car’s lights are LEDs – not a bulb anywhere. They’ll also swoon over our car’s 20” black alloys, deep burgundy metallic paint, quad chrome AMG-embossed exhaust outlets, and flowing lines that replace chunky wedges as Mercedes’ design language. It recalls elegantly grand sedans from the ‘30s-‘50s.
Interiors are dominated by twin LCD screens, expanses of stitched leather, and real wood that foretell elegance for decades to come. Use the knurled aluminum joywheel and center screen to select infotainment functions. Connect smart phones via Bluetooth or USB ports in the armrest and settle into plush heated/cooled leather seats with pillow headrests. Rear passengers recline under the twin pane panoramic sunroof.
Heated/cooled seats and a heated sueded steering wheel are sweet, but our test car spoiled with heated armrests and door panels, sumptuous Nappa Leather, and in-car WiFi hotspot. Hear the Bermester 3D audio and you’ll summon the junkman to your home system. Customize the cabin’s scent atomizer and ambient lighting color as you please.
Two decades ago, the 600 SEL made a statement with electronic stability control. The S63 adds smart cruise control with steering assist to monitor vehicles ahead and marker lines to keep the big ‘Benz safely centered in its lane. Brake assist with pedestrian recognition, blind spot warning, lane keeping assist, 360-degree parking guidance, and cross-traffic alert systems shield fenders.
Leather, wood, and stratospheric price tags have never alone equaled the best car in the world. That was true of Rolls-Royce and Bentley when the 600SEL was introduced and it may be true today. The S63’s blend of obnoxious power, custom luxury, hushed cruising, gravity-defying chassis, and advanced safety set the standard. There’s nothing like driving an S-Class – especially one massaged by AMG. It’s quick enough to cast shadows on Corvette bumpers while insuring Pullman cars remain derailed.
Is the S63 the best car in the world? If not, it’s darned close (there’s also the unholy 621 horsepower S65 coming in 2015). A base price of $139,500, and $162,085 as-tested, will have buyers also considering the Bentley Continental, Rolls-Royce Ghost, BMW 760 Li, Audi A8 W12, and Porsche Panamera.
2014 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG
Five-passenger, AWD sedan
Powertrain: 577hp 5.5-liter TTV8, 7-spd. auto transmission
Suspension f/r: Electronic Ind/Ind
Wheels: 20”/20” alloy f/r
Brakes: Ceramic disc/disc fr/rr
Must-have features: Style, Performance
0-60 mph: 3.9s
Top speed: Ridiculous
Fuel economy: 15/23 mpg city/hwy
Assembly: Sindelfingen, Germany
Base/As-tested price: $139,500/$162,085